Ningaloo contract awarded without public tender
Corruption and Crime Commission public examinations into claims of serious misconduct at the Shire of Exmouth finished on Wednesday after four days of questioning senior Shire officers.
The CCC examinations, held in Perth, focused on the awarding of the $1 million aquarium construction contract for Exmouth research and tourist hub the Ningaloo Centre, now under construction.
On the second day of examinations, Shire of Exmouth chief executive Bill Price admitted he had awarded the contract to Perth-based company Ocean Reefs Production without putting it out to public tender and misled councillors about that by giving them a document recommending they engage the company when the contract had already been awarded.
He also admitted to several instances of misusing his Shire credit card.
Shire strategic projects officer Andrew Forte was questioned about his involvement with the contract and document put to council, as well as his Shire housing agreement.
Shire President Turk Shales and executive manager for aviation services Jennifer Kox were also witnesses last week.
In his closing remarks Commissioner John McKechnie said the examinations had been held publicly to improve transparency and for the benefit of Exmouth’s ratepayers.
“These public examinations have allowed the people of Exmouth to hear admissions by senior officers exposed, including the letting of a contract for over $1 million without any due diligence whatever into the financial circumstances of a company with a paid-up capital of $100 and which was only incorporated on February 16, 2016,” he said.
“They have conceded it was not the only potential supplier.
“They have seen and heard admissions by senior officers to acting without authorisation to enter into that contract, and subsequently creating a false document which was put before council to hide their actions.”
Mr McKechnie also criticised some Shire councillors for not acting on evidence containing “certain admissions” by a senior officer the CCC had given them last month.
He said the CCC would report to Parliament in due course and “has no power to take any disciplinary or other action” itself.
At a special meeting on Friday, the Shire of Exmouth appointed executive manager for engineering services Keith Woodward as acting chief executive while Mr Price is on leave.